MOSCOW (AFP) - The United States is using the Ukraine crisis to cut economic ties between the European Union and Russia and force Europe to pay more for its gas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.
"The US is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to break economic ties between the EU and Russia and force Europe to buy US gas at much higher prices," Mr Lavrov said in a ministry statement of his interview with Russia's Centre TV.
Washington wanted to use the five-month conflict in Ukraine "to economically tear Europe from Russia and bargain for itself the most favourable conditions in the context of the ongoing negotiations on the creation of a transatlantic trade and investment partnership".
Mr Lavrov accused Washington of trying to "impose on Europe deliveries of US liquefied natural gas at prices that can not be competitive compared with Russian gas prices". Russia supplies about a third of the EU's gas.
The Russian foreign minister said the EU was "prepared to sacrifice its economy to politics", adding that Brussels had agreed a new series of sanctions against Russia the day Ukraine signed a ceasefire agreement in Minsk.
But Mr Lavrov said that what he saw as EU bias against Russia would soon change because "sensible voices" within the bloc had pointed out the "paradoxical situation" of imposing fresh sanctions just as a truce was agreed.
On Saturday, Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of seeking to "eliminate" Ukraine as an independent state.
His comments came as Ukraine's military said it had beaten back a major rebel assault on Donetsk airport, a key battleground in the five-month insurgency in the east.